For more than six years, a drug manufacturer suppressed research that could have helped 8 million Americans save $356 million a year by using cheaper alternatives to the company’s synthetic thyroid hormone.
Knoll Pharmaceutical Co. finally threatened to sue to halt publication of a study that could topple its near-monopoly on the $600 million retail market for the drug, the study’s lead author told The Journal of the American Medical Association. The journal published the research today.
Knoll said it had scientific objections to the study.
With the drug industry spending millions each year on medical studies, the episode raises troubling questions about the companies’ influence over research findings.
Knoll’s product, Synthroid, controls 85 percent of the market for synthetic thyroid hormone, used by people whose thyroid glands have been damaged by disease or have been surgically removed.
In 1987, Synthroid’s manufacturer commissioned a study of the drug, which showed clearly that the cheaper competitors - one brand-name drug and two generics - worked just as well as Synthroid for thyroid deficiency.
Over the next six years, the company tried to discredit the study and prevent its publication, the journal said in an editorial.
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